Friday 11 December 2015

Humility the Path to Linguistic Glory

Today is Polski Piątek, and the last day before Christmas I will think about Polish stuff. B.A. and I are going to Umbria for Christmas, so I must pack up all the Polish in my brain and shove it into a mental closet to make room for the Italian I am going to spend the next week reviewing.

If you take Polish classes, it is very helpful to have Polish friends around to help you with your homework. All over Edinburgh there are Poles of every class and condition hunched over the assignments of their "foreign" friends, lovers or spouses. "The girls at work translated it for me," one chap would say of the Polish songs he presented to class. His songs were always Polish Praise & Worship hymns, and as a matter of fact, the number of Catholics in the top grade is now so high, our teacher has started sending her fictional characters in our readings to Mass on Sundays.

Usually I do my assignments on my own but take or send any extraordinarily long passage to Polish friends to correct. The Principal Authority, however, is Polish Pretend Son, who is rather like the stern priest who shouts his homilies but then is very kind in the confessional. The most important thing about PPS, as an arbiter of Polish, is that he does not let any error slide. So it was with mingled joy and trepidation that I brought my most recent assignment to him on Monday and sat beside him on the couch.

"This is very lazy," said PPS (or words to that effect). "It is all in the nominative case!"

"Whoops," said Seraphic who, when PPS was busily being born, was either dancing with super-cute guys at the Brebeuf College School Christmas Dance or writing all about them in her journal.  "I suppose some of it should be in the genitive."

"HMMph", uttered PPS, which is PPSski for "Yes."

I busily worked that section , and then inquired about the next. PPS looked at it for a long time.

"This is all wrong," declared PPS.

"Oh dear."

For the entertainment of Polish readers and learners, I will now present two versions of my essay, the first draft and the final, so you can see how pathetic my first draft was and I can relive once again my errors, for this is the path to linguistic glory.  (The most egregious errors will be underscored.)

Before I do that I should mention there is a bit of biographical exaggeration, as what counts in Polish class is not factual truth but getting whatever Polish you know onto paper or into ears. I will fix this for the translation.

First draft (exceedingly terrible)

Jestem pisarką i niezależną dziennikarką od ośmiu lat. Najbardziej mi podoba się pisanie noweli ale muszę też pisać artykły wstępne i rownież wiadomość, żeby zarobić pieniądze.

Piszę dla "Catholic Register", tygodnik w Toronto, i dla "Catholic World Report" dziennik w siecię, który jest czasopismo mojego wydawnictwa w USA, które opublikowało moją pierwszą powieść.

Kiedy pracuję dla "CR", opiniuję delikatnie o jakąś sprawie życie, n.p. jak mam tym roku gotować dla bożonarodzeniowego. A kiedy piszę dla "CWR", mam nagrać wywiady, n.p. z księdzem ukraińskim o wojnie, albo przeczytać kziążki, n.p. "Bóg albo nic" przez Kardynała Sarah, albo tłumaczyć jakiś artykły na Polski.

Mnóstwo artykłow w CWR należą do USA--ja zamuję się wiadomościmi z Kanady i z Europy też. Podoba mi się napisać o nowinych w Kosciele Polksi. Mam tłumaczyć, a to jest zabawa....

Final draft 

Jestem pisarką i niezależną dziennikarką od ośmiu lat. Najbardziej podoba mi się pisanie noweli, ale żeby zarobić pieniądze, muszę też pisać felietony i reportaże.

Piszę dla Catholic Register, tygodnika w Toronto i dla Catholic World Report, dziennika internetów, który jest czasopismem mojego wydawnictwa w USA, które opublikowało moją powieść.

Kiedy pracuję dla CR, piszę o przyziemnych sprawach, np. co mam ugotować na Boże Narodzenie. Natomiast, kiedy piszę dla CWR muszę nagrywać wywiady, np. z księdzem ukraińskim o wojnie, albo czytać książki, np. Bóg albo nic kardynała Sarah, albo tłumaczyć artykły z Polski.

Mnóstwo artykłów w CWR dotyczy USA; ja zamuję się wiadomościmi z Kanady i z Europy. Lubię pisać o nowinach dotzczących polskiego Kościoła. Muszę robić tłumaczenia; co jest dla mnie dobrą zabawą.

I hope that is all right. My corrected draft was rather a mess. I showed it to my teacher yesterday, so she could correct anything I missed, and it was mostly the punctuation.


"I have been a writer and freelance journalist for eight years. I like writing stories best, but in order to make money, I must also write opinion pieces and news.

"I write for the Catholic Register, a weekly paper in Toronto, and for Catholic World Report, an internet daily, which is the magazine of my publisher in the USA, who published my novel. [And very tired my classmates must be of hearing about it, too.]

"When I work for the CR, I write about everyday things, e.g. what I must cook for Christmas. However, when I write for CWR, I must conduct interviews, e.g. with a Ukrainian priest about the war, or read books, e.g. God or Nothing by Cardinal Sarah, or translate articles from Poland. [Not to republish but for myself, to understand the story and to get quotes.]

"Most of the articles in CWR are about the USA; I [concern myself] with news from Canada and Europe. I love to write news about the Polish Church. I have to translate; I think this is great fun..."

Meanwhile, here is my latest article for Catholic World Report. Some readers will probably be shocked, and other readers will probably be impressed. Just remember that this Polish story has nothing to do with a North American or British context and everything to do with A) Polish history and B) contemporary events in continental Europe.

P.S. I know perfectly well that Gazeta Wyborcza is a left-wing, liberal newspaper highly critical of the Church. It is, however, a mainstream, national daily paper with a large (albeit rapidly falling) readership. It's not the Morning Star.

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